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Pennsylvania coalition forms to protect pregnancy help centers from government pushback

by | Sep 29, 2023

By Tabitha Goodling

Pregnancy centers in Pennsylvania and other Democrat-led states are at risk of shutdown by their state government endeavoring to legislate them out of business. A group of executive directors of centers from across Pennsylvania have united to form one coalition to prevent that shutdown.

Pennsylvania Pregnancy Wellness Collaborative (PPWC) was formed this year by a coalition of pregnancy centers in the commonwealth. Sarah Bowen, executive director of Promise Life Network in Slippery Rock, Pa. and president of PPWC, called the first meeting, and a steering committee of other executive directors has been formed to get the program off the ground. 

Pregnancy center leaders from Pennsylvania gathered in August to talk about the PPWC launch and what it means for the pregnancy help movement in the state. 

Bowen said the program was ignited after centers like her own were facing protestors, vandalism, and a lack of protection and/or support from government leaders. Bowen spoke before the Pennsylvania Senate Democrats Policy Hearing: Deceptive Practices of Anti-abortion Centers in 2022 where she addressed the statements of members claiming pregnancy centers promote “deceptive practices” and are “fake clinics.”

While she was able to explain the authenticity of her center, the lawmakers left her with the sentiment, “Well, your center might be ok, but what about the others?” 

“I’m thinking to myself at the time, ‘Well, they are all ok.’ But I couldn’t speak for them,” she said. “I felt it was time we all come together to work as a body.”

Governor Josh Shapiro’s recent funding cut to Real Alternatives Pregnancy Centers in the state is further proof pregnancy centers are in trouble, Bowen said. Three centers represented on the PPWC steering committee were impacted by this decision, she said.

By remaining silent, pregnancy centers in Pennsylvania are allowing the narrative that their clinics are fake, Bowen said. She said she wanted to help every center in the state have a voice and know exactly how to use it when the enemy threatens their front doors.

Some of the key intentions of PPWC include educating centers about state legislation and when and how it could impact their centers. Bowen noted most executive directors reach out to organizations like NIFLA (National Institute of Family and Life Advocates) for support. However, these organizations are busy at a national level and will refer centers to their local coalitions.

PPWC also plans to create messages and talking points for centers to use when giving tours and dealing with legislators. Executive directors will learn to go before legislators in Harrisburg and speak on behalf of their clinics. 

The steering committee of PPWC meets virtually each week to discuss the latest state issues. Steering committee members come from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Allentown, and Harrisburg, as well as rural regions. 

Bowen noted her own center is located in a fairly rural community with the majority of the community in support of their services. The threat in the conservative areas may not be significant, but no center should bury its head in the sand, she said. 

Bowen said when she spoke before the Senate Democrat committee last fall, she could feel that “they hate us.” She described those who say they are against pregnancy help centers into two categories. 

“If people know what we do and see what we do and how we actually help women, they’re ok,” she said. “And then there are those who don’t care at all what we do. They want us gone.” 

Bowen said it’s difficult for center directors to combat the leftist agenda when they have centers to run. 

“We have women who need us,” she said. “And that is our first priority. That’s why we need each other.”

She noted a center in Allentown where the city had specific laws put in place in retaliation against the pregnancy care center. With PPWC, there is a network to help navigate through this situation.

“A center facing such a setback will have the PPWC as a resource, and we can help formulate a plan of action/response.”

“A lot of us pretend this will all go away,” Bowen said, “But that’s not the case.”

She pointed out, “We are not here to fight or be combative. We’re sharing our stories about who we are helping and we’re educating them. “

About 50 centers were represented when the PPWC launched its first event in August in the Harrisburg region. More centers will likely jump on board as the word spreads.

“All women deserve to feel loved and supported during their pregnancy,” said Morning Star Pregnancy Center Executive Director Linda Plummer. 

Plummer’s center is in Harrisburg, and she is a steering committee member of the program. 

“The PPWC is a crucial voice to defend pregnancy centers and pregnancy medical clinics and to advocate for the dignity of all women,” she said.

Editor’s note. This appeared at Pregnancy Help News and reposted with permission.